PDF version of letter

October 15, 2018

Mr. Brian Joyner, Chief of Staff, National Mall and Memorial Parks

National Park Service

900 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, DC 20024

Dear Mr. Joyner:

We write to express our deep concern over proposed rulemaking RIN 1024-AE45, issued August 7, 2018, which would revise the National Park Service’s protest permitting process regarding demonstrations at the National Mall, Memorial Parks, and President’s Park.

This proposal would infringe on Americans’ rights to free speech and assembly. Forcing Americans to pay to lawfully assemble at our most iconic and politically significant sites places a financial barrier that precludes equal opportunity and access, dissuading and prohibiting Americans from demonstrating. The ability to afford fees for permits must not be a factor in who gets the opportunity to protest on these public lands. Introducing fees for First Amendment demonstrations would represent an overwhelming departure from American values.

We strongly urge you to revise the proposed rule and maintain access to vibrant, participatory democracy for all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status or support from wealthy donors. Protesting is a cornerstone of American democracy. The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech … or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Over centuries, Americans have come together from near and far and lifted their voices, from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech advancing the civil rights movement to the 2017 Women’s March, the largest demonstration in American history. Americans have cried out signifying ardent diversity of thought on a wide variety of issues spanning from war and peace to the economy, the environment, civil rights, human rights, and more. There is a fundamental personal dignity in protest—the insistence that one’s voice matters. Protesting is also a patriotic act, as Americans show up to help steer the path of our country. As we work to fulfill the promise of this country, we must never restrict access to the public lands surrounding its halls of power.

Thank you for your commitment to preserving our cultural history and natural resources. As you work to manage an increase in requests for permits and maintain your commitment to preserving visitor experience, resource protection, and public safety, we trust you will reconsider this proposal and ensure that the right of all Americans to express their beliefs in our nation’s capital will be safeguarded.

Sincerely,

American Hiking Society

American Library Association

American Public Health Association

Americans for Financial Reform

Anti-Defamation League

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)

Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education Professionals

Association of Research Libraries

Athlete Ally

The Avarna Group

Bend the Arc

Bold Alliance

Brown Environmentalist

Brown People Camping

Californians for Western Wilderness

Campaign for Accountability

Catharsis on the Mall

Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Church of Scientology National Affairs Office

Citizen’s Climate Lobby

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)

Common Cause

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

CREDO

Defend Our Future

Defending Rights & Dissent

Democracy for America

Diverse Environmental Leaders

Dogwood Alliance

Earth Ethics

Earthjustice

Earthwise Productions

Endangered Species Coalition

Environmental Defense Fund

Friends of the Earth US

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)

Government Accountability Project

Green Muslims

GreenLatinos

Hip Hop Caucus

Hipcamp

Hispanic Access Foundation

Hispanic Federation

Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights Watch

Interfaith Power & Light

Jews United for Justice

Lambda Legal

Latino Outdoors

League of Conservation Voters

League of Women Voters of the United States

MoveOn

NAACP

NARAL Pro-Choice America

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Coalition Against Censorship

National Council of Jewish Women

National Employment Law Project

National Equality Action Team (NEAT)

National Federation of the Blind

National Juvenile Justice Network

National LGBTQ Task Force

National Resources Defense Council

National Women’s Law Center

New Mexico Voices for Children

Next 100 Coalition

Oceana

Oil Change International

Outdoor Muslims

Patagonia

People For the American Way Foundation

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Praxis Project

Project On Government Oversight

Public Citizen

SAGE

SEIU

Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN)

Sierra Club

Southern Poverty Law Center

Transforming Youth Outdoors

Veterans For Peace

The Wilderness Society

Win Without War

Women’s March

 

(Photo by Jacob Creswick on Unsplash)